Second placed Catalans Dragons looked to maintain their perfect start to the season as they travelled to Wigan to take on a Warriors side who are tucked in behind them in third spot, recovering brilliantly after losing their opening 2023 fixture at Hull KR in the opening round.
Wigan were strong favourites with the bookies after not conceding a single point in their last two outings, the Dragons being given a fourteen-point start on the handicap coupon, but a win of any description would be enough to lift either the Warriors or the Dragons to the top of the table ahead of tomorrow night’s fixtures.
The snow had started falling in the lead up to kick off and it was bitterly cold as the two sides shivered their way onto the pitch.
With just six minutes on the clock Manu Ma´u silenced the home crowd as took the pass at first received five from the line, bounced off the first defender and spun around before dropping over the line to ground for the first Catalans points. Adam Keighran smacked his conversion straight between the uprights.
A Sam Powell 40-20 on twenty-two gave Wigan a great base and after a high tackle from Ben Garcia on the first tackle it looked like a gilt-edged chance for the home side but a poor pass from Cade Cust was dropped and the attack came to nothing. Wigan unable to make a breakthrough.
Frustrations boiled over on twenty-seven and the result was a penalty for the Dragons which Keighran kicked from fifteen metres out for 8-0.
Harry Smith put the kick-off out on the full, the home side looking rattled and after getting a repeat set close to the Wigan line, the ball was moved quickly through hands to the left with Arthur Romano finding space on the overlap to cross in the corner. Keighran was just wide with his conversion attempt but with five minutes of the half remaining the visitors were 12-0 ahead.
Inside the last minute of the half Ma´u was sin-binned for a late hit and from twenty-five metres out Harry Smith kicked the penalty goal to finally get his side on the scoreboard, Wigan trailing 2-12 at the interval.
Four minutes after the restart it was the side with the one-man advantage who got the first try when Kaide Ellis pushed between two tacklers before passing to the supporting Harry Smith to run in unopposed. Smith added the conversion to his try, the margin down to four points.
Wigan were looking like a different side in the second half and when on fifty-three minutes Mike McMeeken interfered at the play the ball close to his own line Wigan pointed to the sticks and Smith kicked the penalty goal for 10-12.
With a try out of nowhere, Ma´u took a Tyrone May grubber twenty-five metres from the Wigan line and threw two dummies to step through the Wigan defence and drag the final tackler over the line with him to ground. Keighran added the extras, and the leading margin was back to eight points.
A brilliant last ditch tackle from Tom Johnstone on Toby King thwarted a Wigan try on seventy-seven as he dragged the centre into touch just short of the try line. It secured the win and denied the crowd a grandstand finish as the Dragons secured an 18-10 win.
Dragons first win in Wigan after fifteen consecutive defeats over the last twelve years. More importantly it maintains their one hundred percent start to the season and condemns Wigan to their second loss of the season. It was the first time that the Dragons have won their first four of the season.
While both sides made plenty of mistakes the Dragons managed to keep the Wigan backs, especially Field and French, relatively quiet while Harry Smith was less influential than usual. Catalans managed their period of having a man down and losing a couple to injury to hold on for a brilliant win.
Wigan Warriors: Field, French, King, Wardle, Marshall, Cust, Smith (T, 3G), Singleton, Powell, Cooper, Isa, Farrell, Smithies. Subs: Havard, Ellis, Mago, Pearce-Paul. 18th Man: Byrne.
Catalans Dragons: Mourgue, Davies, Laguerre, Romano (T), Johnstone, Keighran (3G), May, McMeeken, McIlorum, Bousquet, Seguier, Ma´u (2T, SB on 39), Garcia. Subs: Goudemand, Chan, Tison, Dezaria. 18th Man: Scimone.
Score Progression: 0-4, 0-6, 0-8, 0-12, (SB), 2-12 : HT : 6-12, 8-12, 10-12, 10-16, 10-18 : FT.
Lead Exchanges: Catalans.
Referee: Marcus Griffiths.